Christian Eckes finished the 2020 season at Phoenix Raceway on Friday night with the seventh top-five finish of his rookie campaign.
Eckes and the No. 18 team ended the 2020 season eighth in the driver point standings. He finished second in the rookie of the year standings to Zane Smith. Across 23 starts, the 19-year-old driver collected seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, including three runner-up results.
Stage One Recap:
· Eckes started in the seventh position after a performance matrix based on finishing position from the previous race, ranking in owner points standings and the fastest lap from the previous race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
· As the opening stage stayed green from start to finish, Eckes fell back two spots to ninth as he battled a loose-handling Safelite Tundra.
Stage Two Recap:
· During the stage break, veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned his young driver to pit road for four fresh tires and a full load of fuel.
· After exiting pit road fifth, Eckes elected to restart from the outside of row three when Stage Two went green on Lap 53.
· The Toyota Racing Development product communicated that his Toyota was “too free to fire off,” as he fell back to eighth to finish Stage Two.
Final Stage Recap:
· Under the break, the over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop and Eckes exited pit road sixth. The rookie driver elected to start from the outside of row three when the Final Stage went green on Lap 98.
· He was scored in the fifth position when a caution occurred on Lap 104 and communicated that his Safelite Tundra was pretty good, so Fugle elected to keep his young driver on the track.
· The No. 18 Toyota restarted on the outside of row three before settling into the seventh position.
· Eckes remained in the seventh position when a caution came out with two laps remaining and set up NASCAR overtime.
· When pit road opened, Fugle elected to bring his driver down pit road for fresh right-side tires. A speedy stop by the over-the-wall crew put Eckes as the first truck off pit road, but five trucks elected to stay on track, including the top three, leaving the Safelite Tundra in the sixth spot for the choose-lane selection.
· The New York native elected the inside of row four for the restart, and as the field raced several lanes deep through the dogleg, Eckes would was able to advance his position and end the race in the fourth spot.
Christian Eckes, driver of the No. 18 Safelite Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports
Solid top-five finish after a wild final restart. How was the finish from your seat?
“I chose the bottom. On those last restarts, I saw that you can make moves, go low and go really wherever you need to. That played in our favor, pretty well overall. I wish we would have been a little bit lower, maybe, we would have been in front of the 2 (Sheldon Creed). Not sure if we had the speed to beat him, but the track position definitely could have helped. Overall, pretty proud of my team. We were able to get Chandler (Smith) up there to get a top-five too, and I think all three of our Tundras were in the top-five too. It was a good day for KBM.”
Lucas Oil 150 Recap:
· Sheldon Creed earned the 2020 Truck Series championship with his fifth victory of 2020 beating Zane Smith to the line by 0.617 seconds. Chandler Smith, Eckes and Raphael Lessard rounded out the top five.
· There were eight lead changes among five different drivers. There were four cautions for 28 laps.
How Eckes’ KBM Teammates Fared:
· Chandler Smith, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished third.
· Raphael Lessard, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished fifth.
Gander Trucks Championship Standings:
After 23 events, Eckes will finish the 2020 season eighth in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series point standings.